February 11, 2010
They Were Expendable
Signed INF-R Hector Luna and 5C-R Vinny Rottino to minor-league contracts. [2/8]
Luna joins an increasingly long list of utility infield types competing for the right to challenge Emilio Bonifacio for work, and perhaps even supplant the ultimate good face/bad bat ballplayer. Only Bonifacio is on the 40-man roster, but non-roster status isn't a huge deterrent, since the Marlins have some play in terms of space and cut-worthy 40-man types. The four major contenders are Luna, Brian Barden, Donnie Murphy, and Danny Richar.
Luna is the one with the most success at the major-league level; after breaking in with the 2004 Cardinals (.234 EqA), he enjoyed good years in 2005 (.272) and 2006 (.258), getting dealt for Ronnie Belliard in the latter season as the Birds mounted their stretch run. It was at that point that Luna's career went off the tracks. He put on a ton of weight before the 2007 season while becoming all thumbs in the infield, a combination that lost his bid for regular playing time with the Tribe. In Buffalo, he got hurt before he got released, at which point the drifting commenced: to the Jays via waivers through 2008, then to the Dodgers last season. In Albuquerque as a minor-league minion of the blue menace, he had a big year, hitting .351/.414/.610, which was good for a .276 EqA. He's subsequently followed that up with a nice spin in the Dominican Winter League, hitting for power and patience. Now heading in to his age-30 season, he apparently hasn't lost the weight, and his days of playing short seem to be long over; as is, he barely took any reps at second base for the Isotopes, mostly playing third and first. That doesn't argue for a lot of use as a utility infielder, but the club's been willing to put up with Dan Uggla at second and Jorge Cantu at third; if Luna's bat makes a loud enough argument on his behalf, he could stick.
In part, that's because none of the alternatives are shortstops either. Murphy is coming off of a early-April season-ending injury as an Orioles farmhand; even before that, he was a second baseman who had tried to play short as a matter of trying to stick as a utilityman, and not well. Add in his trouble reaching base, and he's a marginal contender. Richar has some things in common with Murphy: he's also turning 27 this year, also coming off an injury-shortened campaign, and probably also can't really play anywhere but second, but he has a decent lefty line-drive bat that might get him consideration as an early-game pinch-hitting option. Barden has the most recent experience in the majors, having spent a good chunk of last year with the Cardinals, spotting at third base after drawing the opening day start and being named National League Rookie of the Month for April, only to deal with the indignity of losing out to Sloppy Joe Thurston and eventually losing his spot on the 40-man. Barden may have as much power as Luna or more, but he's really more of a corner infielder, having played short and second more as an adaptation to a utility track than any real skill.
Because none of these guys have all that much success or experience playing shortstop, I'd expect Bonifacio is safe as the token offering as a reserve at the position. However, the Fish should have room for one more of these guys, and it'll be interesting to see who they select.
In the meantime, they also signed Rottino, who's being listed among the catchers because he's gamely given catching a shot to help him along in a bid for a utilityman's career. He's not really much of a catcher, with a weak arm and stiff receiving skills, but he's gunning for a bench job where he'd be a step up from a designated emergency catcher, while also helping out at the four corners, and pinch hitting. Already about to turn 30, he's not especially patient (his walk rate only just last year went over the correct side of 10 percent) or powerful (with a career ISO of .125), but he runs well for a corner, and if you wind up with a regular lineup and someone you only have to use in emergencies, he could get his uniform dirty enough in camp to hang around.
Signed OF-R Brian Barton and C-R Gabriel Gutierrez to minor-league contracts. [2/8]
After a disappointing season generally spent in Triple-A knocking around suburban Atlanta for Gwinnett, Barton's landed with the Dodgers in their latest outfield addition. In the increasingly crowded collection of options on hand for the Dodgers, I wouldn't give Barton a lot of consideration, but he's a thoughtful, educated man with the speed and athleticism to play all three spots, and perhaps chip in as a good baserunner. A spin in Albuquerque might lead to outsized stats and renewed consideration for a bench job somewhere.
Signed LHP Scott Schoeneweis to a minor-league contract. [2/9]
Credit the Brewers with doing the classy thing by being a team willing to give Schoeneweis a shot to stick somewhere and move past last year's tragedy with his wife's death. While they already have Mitch Stetter set as their top situational lefty, the Brewers don't have an automatic in-camp favorite for a second, and as terrible as Schoeneweis' year was, he did well enough against lefties for the Mets in 2008 (.178/.243/.277) and 2007 (.204/.308/.247) to merit a non-roster invite. He'll have to contend with journeyman Chris Narveson and Rule 5 pick Chuck Lofgren from among the 40-man candidates, and perhaps Chris Capuano and A.J. Murray from among the non-roster types, but that's obviously a weak enough field that anyone from within that group could wind up winning a back-end bullpen job.
Claimed CF-L Jason Pridie off waivers from the Twins; designated RHP Jack Egbert for assignment; agreed to terms with OF-S Angel Pagan to a one-year, $1.45 million deal, avoiding arbitration. [2/9]
Now that Pridie's heading into his age-26 season, it's important to keep enthusiasm for grabbing him in check, but he's not a bad add as these things go. He's a good center fielder, a good baserunner, and he has a modicum of pop against right-handed pitching. To the negative, he takes a free pass less often than a tony club's doorman, and his EqAs tend to skip around in the .230 range, his one half-season of glory at Durham (.285 in 269 PAs) notwithstanding. He's a long shot, but you could have said the same about guys like Endy Chavez or Angel Pagan at different points in their careers, so this isn't a terrible add-on, especially for a franchise as talent-bereft at the upper levels as the Mets' farm system is.
Signed C-R Yorvit Torrealba to a one-year, $750,000 contract with a mutual 2011 option for $3.5 million ($500,000 buyout); released RHP Greg Burke outright. [2/9]
Torrealba's name is already getting added to the lengthening list of Jody Reed types this winter, the men who apparently had very good deals offered to them, and who perhaps flat-out blew it by rejecting them on the thinking that the market would provide something even better. Torrealba seemingly had a one-plus-option package that might have totaled $5.6 million offer on the table from the Rockies, the team that has time and again given him considerable consideration despite also employing Chris Iannetta; he rejected that to hunt for a couple of hundred thousand more and a more favorable setup as far as the option and the buyout. Maybe this deal's more amenable to him, but somehow, I think not.
Any financial sour grapes aside, because it could be worse (he could be Rod Barajas or Jose Molina, after all), he might not seem like an ideal fit as far as the kind of hitter who might adapt to Petco. His career performance there is predictably ghastly (.156/.198/.234 in 84 PAs), not really surprising for a player who owes so much of his power to life on Planet Coors. On his career, Torrealba's hit all of .274/.331/.425 in Denver, against. 245/.301/.372 everywhere else; not even Colorado could turn him into a plausible regular. That's fine, because that's not exactly what the Padres are looking for: if he can deliver on his projected .243 EqA, he'll be a nice backup to the younger Nick Hundley (projected to .251), just as he was for Iannetta.
However, that's if he can mount up enough reasons, whether linguistic, performance-oriented, or as a matter of relative big-league experience to obviously outclass their previous first choice for Hundley's caddy, former Tigers prospect Dusty Ryan, whom they acquired in December, and who's projected to a .253 EqA. I wouldn't get too worked about any one of these three. What the Pads have now is depth to survive an injury to any one of their catchers, so they've covered themselves at the position. In light of the unlikelihood of their picking up Torrealba's 2011 option, they've also done so cheaply. They won't be stuck giving 100 plate appearances to the odd Luke Carlin type unless they lose two for an extended stretch.
Signed RHP Todd Wellemeyer to a minor-league contract. [2/10]
Wellemeyer's pointedly been signed to man a long relief slot in the bullpen (if he earns it), but it's worth noting that the leading contenders for the Giants' fifth slot are young top prospect Madison Bumgarner and the more mediocre, ill-starred Joe Martinez. While Wellemeyer pitched his way out of St. Louis as one of the more transient of Dave Duncan's veteran retread success stories, it's not hard to envision a scenario where Bumgarner has a bad camp and/or the Giants decide to manipulate his service time, plus Martinez struggles. (There's also Kevin Pucetas, who's sort of Joe Martinez, only less so, albeit without the bad luck in terms of getting his bean creased by the odd batted ball.)
As a fly-ball pitcher who might get to call China Basin home, Wellemeyer could live up to that initial forecast of an ERA around 5.00, which isn't great, but we're talking about an experienced aspirant to fifth starterdom, not someone who might muscle his way past Barry Zito and Jonathan Sanchez to make the Big Two the Big Three. It's a reasonable bit of insurance against any questions arising over Bumgarner's readiness, and if the long-relief role sticks, he could be a nice enough choice as a veteran who can help span the gap between the late-game relievers and early exits by Bumgarner (forced by workload considerations), Zito (forced by the hitters), or Sanchez (a bit of both). Of course, if he can't keep his walk rate down in a relief role, he could also just be credited with newly fabricated Hold-Assists, generating lead-saving double-play opportunities for Jeremy Affeldt.
Agreed to terms with 2B/OF-L Skip Schumaker on a two-year, $4.7 million base contract, avoiding arbitration. [2/9]